College and Career Ready Looks

an awful lot like NCLB. All students were supposed to be proficient by 13-14 under NCLB, It’s 13-14, and that ain’t happening. The new mantra is ‘all children college or career ready by high school graduation, Just change the name and move the goalposts. Never mind the toll it takes on actual people…like children.


God-bothering at its finest

An elementary school student from Lake City SC proposed naming the Wooly Mammoth as the state’s Official Fossil. And then the thinkers in the South Carolina House got ahold of it:

Last week, state Sen. Kevin Bryant tried unsuccessfully to insert a Bible verse into the bill. This week, the Anderson Republican is putting forward a new amendment that refers to the animal “as created on the sixth day with the beasts of the field.”

“I think it’s an appropriate time to acknowledge the creator,” he told The Greenville News.

His original amendment quoted from the King James version of the book of Genesis: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”

Because when I think Bible + animals that equals….woolly mammoth. 

The amendment was ultimately axed because it violated legislature rules regarding amendments to legislation. The bill itself almost died in the Senate yesterday morning after Senator Harvey Peeler blocked it. The bill was resurrected late yesterday after Peeler received a barrage of tweets, calls, and emails asking him to reverse course.  



Field Testing

This is the term used to ‘try out’ proposed new standardized testing. In South Carolina this year, we are field testing the new Smarter Balanced online standardized test, and a new online test to replace SC Alt.

What is SC Alt? From the SCDE website: The SC-Alt is an alternate assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities who are assessed against alternate achievement standards as they are unable to participate in the general assessment program even with accommodations.

It correlates to the SC Palmetto Assessment of State Standards-the statewide test for 3rd-8th graders given in English Language Arts, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies in the Spring of each school year. And it correlates to the High School Exit Exam, given to 10th graders in the Spring.

In non-education speak, it’s a test for those kids who have severe medical/physical or intellectual difficulties. Kids who are unable to dress or feed themselves, kids who can learn basic skills, but will never progress beyond a Kindergarten or 1st grade level, because of their intellectual impairment. But by golly, we’re gonna test those kids every year.

Schools are just now receiving the information about how to conduct the field testing for this new Alt exam, which is expected to be given over a five-week window beginning in April. For teachers who are the test administrators to their students, this includes a 3.5 hour training webinar. Yep, 3.5 hours. One-half of a typical school workday. Spent training to give a field test. That’s one-half day teachers who are giving this exam will not be able to provide instruction and assistance to these kids. On top of that, teachers who are test administrators will also have to spend about another 45 minutes to an hour prepping in the online testing portal. So if you’re a teacher with two students to field test, you’ve just killed a day in preparation to administer this field test. And you’ll probably be out of the classroom taking care of these task, depriving students of direct instructional time with their assigned teacher.

The exam itself is expected to take about two hours, over two testing sessions. And this is on top of the existing SC Alt exam these kids are just now finishing taking. Which takes at least a 1.5 to 2 hour session over two to three days to complete.

The testing tail is definitely wagging the dog here.


Dr. Mick Zais: The Very Model of a Modern Major General

On March 25th, a press release was posted on the South Carolina Department of Education website, highlighted on the homepage with the tagline: Why did Nine Districts Spend More Money on Operations than Teacher Salaries?

The press release itself does not answer this question, but it does link to a document with ‘data’ outlining district spending on operations compared to teachers salaries.

The operations costs include “maintenance, data processing, and business operations, as well as legal costs and district office staff salaries/fringe benefits”.

Zais is quoted in the statement saying “These data give taxpayers insight into where their money goes. I hope parents and the press in these districts start asking some tough questions”.

The ‘data’ Dr. Zais presents uses actual district spending on operations in 2011-2012, compared to the “statewide average of teacher salary of $47,376, with an average class size of 22”.

This is one of those cases of lies, damn lies, and statistics. For Dr. Zais’ information to be useful to those taxpayers he purports to be so concerned about, the comparison should be each district’s average teacher salary compared to each district’s operations spending. While the numbers might or might not improve, they would at least have more validity.

Dr. Zais is also quoted in the release as saying “Any expense that doesn’t directly impact student learning must be closely examined”.

The fact is, expenses such as building maintenance and electricity (and yes, districts do pay for the electricity they use) have a direct impact on instruction, since it would be nigh impossible to teach and learn effectively in a decrepit, unmaintained building or one without electricity.

Also needed to put these figures in context is whether there were any unexpected expenses that skewed operations spending in these districts in 2011-2012. Were there higher than usual legal fees that year? Maybe a building had its heating and air system give up the ghost. Or maybe an activity bus had to be replaced to ensure students were transported safely. It’s apparent, however, that Dr. Zais is not interested in context, only in cherry-picking numbers to further his political hobbyhorse. The state education website as a platform to conduct his floggings of public schools is just icing on the cake for him.

Frankly, where the tough questions need to be directed are to Dr. Zais. Among the duties of the State Superintendent of Education, which are available on the SCDE website, are: ‘Organize, staff, and administer a State Department of Education which shall include such divisions and departments as are necessary to render the maximum service to public education in the state’. Has Dr. Zais provided the maximum service to these districts he is calling out? (Hint, the answer is no).

Another duty reads in part: ‘Have printed and distributed such bulletins, manuals, and circulars….for the cultivation of public sentiment for public education”. How does Dr. Zais interpret this duty? That it’s his role to cultivate a public sentiment that’s completely anti-public schools because that’s what he believes the people of South Carolina want? Of course, it’s also possible he does these things because he’s a mean, bitter dickhead.